Another Turkey Day gone by

Another Thanksgiving came and went, completely and totally below radar. It was my third Thanksgiving spent living abroad and by no means does it get easier. Back when I had been in Chile a mere four months, I wrote a pretty positive post about all the things I was thankful for – sort of an ode to Thanksgiving despite being in a land far, far away. I reread that particular blog post and realize that I’m still thankful for all the things I listed three years ago and of course there are at least three things I’d add to said list: little human, Obi and my job. I’m not done being thankful and more so, being consciously thankful.

However … yes, there is a however. It’s Thanksgiving and I’m alone. A-L-O-N-E, alone. Yes, little human is with me (and she’s a presence to be reckoned with) but she’s also six months old and at 9PM said little human sleeps. Yes, my tub of burning love, Obi, is also with me, but he’s partial to sleeping anytime, anyplace and that means he’s sleeping right now. And probably will be in the next hour and so forth until tomorrow. So where does that leave me? Alone. On Thanksgiving. A-L-O-N-E. Yes, I will proceed to cry you all a river right now.

I’m thankful, dammit!!!

Thanksgiving arts and crafts!

But, I’m sad, too. I’m sad because of the aforementioned reason, but I’m also sad because it’s the first Thanksgiving with little human and she has NO idea what’s going on. Of course I went on to tell her about the pilgrims and the native Americans and about the turkeys she needs to learn to make by tracing her hand on construction paper, but she wasn’t even listening and she certainly wasn’t cooperating with the hand turkeys.

Adding insult to injury, Thanksgiving always marked the beginning of the holiday season for me. It’s grotesque, I know, Black Friday being symbolic of everything that’s wrong with society, but that’s how I knew the holidays were coming! Christmas lights, decorations, cookies, smells, colors, food – aaaaaaaaaaaaaand just like that, right after Turkey Day, I was walking in my very own imaginary winter wonderland (imaginary because it doesn’t actually snow in the SF Bay Area). I ask you – what marks the beginning of the holiday season now??? The Christmas decorations that pop up a week after the September Independence Day celebrations at the local Jumbo? That and the wilting flowers all around because of the 80+ degree heat?? Or the allergy attacks that have me pining for the “nighttime-sniffling-sneezing-coughing-aching-stuffy-head-fever-so-I-can-rest medicine? (If any Chilean gets this reference, please let me know so that I can be your BFF.) Let me tell you, these things mentioned DO NOT a Christmas season, make.

Thanksgiving also happens to be the one important holiday that we just don’t share with other countries. Christmas – that’s shared the world over. Independence day – not shared the world over (look at me, I’m England and I never had to claim Independence from anyone! Whoop-dee-do!) but shared nonetheless in the Americas, given that England and Spain were greedy bitches back in the day. There’s Labor Day (legal holidays in both the U.S. and Chile) and there are even holidays where we commemorate wars and/or fallen soldiers who have given their lives for our freedom and rights. Easter – shared. New Year’s – shared the world over. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day – shared, shared and shared. Granted, few of these dates coincide with one another but we share similar concepts and holidays.

What I’m trying to say here, folks, is that Thanksgiving is sorely missed – for many reasons. Not so much because of the food (not particularly a turkey fan myself – too dry) but because it was a time of togetherness that marked the beginning of the best time of the year! I just don’t have that anymore on Thanksgiving. Maybe 20 years from now, when I’ve lived here far too long, I won’t even flinch when the fourth Thursday of November rolls around. But I’m flinching now, people, so let me be heard!

That said, I’m super thankful for the three glasses of wine that have gotten me through this very, very lonely Thanksgiving and this very, very crybaby blog post.

Cheers, kids.
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Greatest Hits

Right after I had the little human, I took to watching a WHOLE lot of the series “LOST.” There is an episode late in Season Three of this twisted series entitled “Greatest Making a list, checking it twice ... via Chud.comHits” and no, this blog post is not a review of this particular episode (which, if you’re wondering, yes, is a good one.) Not that you should care, but in this episode a character dies and he knows beforehand when and how he’s going to die. In preparation for this, he reflects on his life and proceeds to jot down his life’s greatest hits – i.e. best or most memorable moments – on a piece of paper so that this little scrap can later be given to his lady love upon his death.

The idea has motivated me to think back on my greatest hits thus far. Leaving aside the morbid reasons behind the tv character’s motivation, I find it interesting to sit back and reflect on moments when I’ve felt particularly happy or fulfilled. Peaks that irrevocably warrant bookmarks between my chapters of life. In doing so, it helps me to step back and take a look from afar at the type of life I’ve lived so far. Has it been a life jam-packed with friends? With travel? With partying? With family? With walks-of-shame I’d rather forget? (Thankfully, no on that last one.)

Greatest hits imply the best of the best, but by no means am I implying that the moments in my life that are anointed as “great” are far and away the most mind blowing experiences out there. They don’t include daredevil feats like skydiving or once-in-a-lifetime moments like, say, chanting with the Dalai Lama (does he chant?). In fact, you might not think they’re all that impressive but that’s not the point of this. We all have greatest hits in our lives – moments we recall such nostalgia and even happiness, that you just happily place a mental bookmark so as to make your way back to that memory whenever the going gets tough. I can’t tell you where my greatest hits start and I certainly can’t tell you where they end … they vary in time and space but have the common denominator of being emblematic of a moment in time that I wouldn’t mind landing in via the DeLorean from “Back to the Future.”

Even as it was happening, I knew buying our bed was an important step. I took this picture during the actual purchase!

For instance, for some reason one of the best moments in my life that stands out time and time again is, ridiculously enough, when I first moved in with G and we ventured out to buy our bed. When you think about it, it’s got to be one of the most basic of things – shopping for a necessity such as a mattress. Who cares, right? Except it was so symbolic in my life. I had never before lived with a guy, let alone gone through the process of furnishing our home together. I had just arrived in Chile and was sublimely happy to be reunited with my fiancee after months and months of trying to hold together a relationship long distance. And there we were, giddy, in love, and starting our life together from scratch.

Then I take a moment and think back to grade school … Catholic school, to be exact … and for some reason sitting in church singing “Immaculate Mary” always registers in my mind as a happy moment in time. As an adult I wonder why, but if I remember what it was like as a kid, all I can remember is … FUN. I know, it makes no sense, but for me, school was a good time and singing in church meant we weren’t in class and back then, any time we weren’t in class was fun. Things were just that simple back then.

Girls gone road trippin’!

Road trips with friends obviously make it onto my greatest hits – there were many in my young adulthood: road trips to San Diego, Los Angeles, Lake Tahoe … even Lake Havasu in Arizona (THAT was long ass car ride, let me tell you). The road in front of you, the wind in your hair (or face), some groovy tunes and some good conversation sprinkled with cackles of laughter, typical of girls when they get together. What did we talk about anyway? What did we listen to? How did we find enough topics of conversation or enough music to cover 6-10 whole hours of riding in a car with three other people? Maybe we were bitching out Kate Winslet’s character, Rose, in Titanic, for not hauling her huge butt over so as to create enough room on the floating door for Jack (in all seriousness, he could have survived if she’d only moved over!) However it was that we passed our time riding along in our automobile, my memories of road trips morph into one memory for me and it reminds me of a time when I literally left “all cares behind.”

Other greats…:

The exact, precise moment when G proposed – on a catamaran, in the middle of the ocean between Cancun and Isla Mujeres…sun, ceviche, a bottle of wine and some bling.

Said balcony before we moved in.

I also remember our first apartment ever when I first moved to Chile and I recall the balcony with great nostalgia. (Hear me out.) The view was great but moreover, the countless times we bbq’d some chicken and shared a bottle of wine on that balcony, during the hot summer nights. Those moments were by far even greater. Our apartment now is  bigger but I’d argue that it’s hardly better. Something about that small balcony, with eternal sunlight that just always takes me back to moments when G and I just took a breather in the presence of the view.

The first time I ever held Obi. Even then I knew that this dog, for better or for worse, would be like my first-born child. And even after actually having a child (a human one, that is) I still feel that Obi is my eldest – my baby boy and little tub of love.  The day I ever have to look at our little family without him in it, will be the day a small piece of me dies. He’s almost three years old and weighs close to 52 pounds, but the first time I held him, I knew this little bundle of fur was going to teach me a thing or two about patience and unconditional love for a beloved pet.

Licensing Show 2008. You know how I feel about my past life in licensing. I adore my

Actual pic from “after hours” during LS 2008. My future husband was dating another woman back then.

current job and company but if ever I was given a chance to return to licensing, a quick “hell yeah” would resonate loud and resonate proud. Licensing Show was where I was first exposed to international business – sales and negotiations across geographic boundaries. By the time my very last Licensing Show rolled around (2008), I had the game down pat. I knew the who, what and where and I finally felt as though I was actually GOOD at something… was I good at negotiating? Sure, though certainly not the strongest. Was I good at schmoozing? Maybe. But certainly not the most charming. I have fond memories of each Licensing Show I was fortunate enough to work, but why is LS 2008 marked as “the best” in my book? Two reasons: 1) it was the last time it was held in NYC and there are few places better than NYC and 2) it was where I ran into the man who would be my future husband.

I’d also go back in time in a heartbeat to my best friend Jen’s apartment, circa 2004-5 and relive the moments in her living room where we’d pretend to be Las Vegas sleazy lounge singers, doing our best rendition of John Elton’s “Daniel” for our audience of one.

I now know that one of my all-time most empowering moments in life occurred when I was in preschool. I stepped in dog poop and my ever-so-gracious preschool teacher told me I had to take care of the situation myself (I was 4 and it was the 80s. No way would that fly nowadays). I realize now that even then I had amazing powers of persuasion because SOMEHOW I was able to convince a little friend I had been playing with when this dastardly thing occurred to take responsibility for my dog pooped shoe and actually clean it out for me! I convinced her that I’d do the same for her – only her shoe was poop-free – and the little dumb ass BOUGHT IT.  To this day I fondly recall the image of that poor little girl washing my shoe in the sink while I happily picked at her spotless shoe. I know it’s mean, but as an adult, I look back at my young self and proudly conclude that I was a born smooth-talker. I’ve had far more empowering moments, but this one, this one was my first and every time I think of it, I smile (ok, I smirk, but still).

Mini me and me, just this week.

And finally … I know that one of my greatest hits moments in life is right now. Right now that my little human is six-months old and I work part time so that I’m home with her every afternoon by 2:30 pm. Right now that she recognizes me, smiles when I walk into the room, cackles when I kiss her tummy and talks back to me in her own little language. Right now that I feel happy, having passed the PPD – the darkest moment lived  (thus far) – and am working out, feel stronger, and look better than I have since giving birth (according to me, myself and I). In short, I feel good and I’m enjoying the little bundle of belly fat that I call little human. The dark times have passed and I’ve moved on to this: looking at her and mumbling “thank you, thank you, thank God for you” a-la the Bette Midler movie “Beaches.” I’ve reached gargantuan level cheesy-mom proportions. And hey – that’s ok! (If you tell anyone, I’ll be on you like white on rice.)

So there you have it, my good people. A smorgasbord of greatest hits in the life of me. Oh, but there is so much more! The time I worked out overlooking Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. The time my friend Jen and I ventured out in NYC, looking for its “seedy underbelly.” The time I was snowed in in NYC after Toy Fair (at the time it felt detrimental but at the end of the day there’s no such thing as too much time spent in the Big Apple.) Exploring the Louvre alone … Taking the train into San Francisco for work everyday … happy hours at wine bars with friends after work … Giants games, whether they won or lost … bouncing in the water like a buoy in Surin Beach, Phuket … the time I visited Chile in the summer of 2001 and spent two fabulous weeks in Totoralillo with my cousins … singing in the church choir when I was in fifth grade … the end of the day, in bed, next to hubby, watching “That 70s Show,” “Arrested Development,” or  “Sex in the City” before drifting into delicious sleep.

At any moment in time these memories, and countless others, serve as reminders that, thank God, I’ve had a good life thus far. Greatest hits I’m happy to play over and over again.

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When Surprise Visits Make Your Weekend

One of the things that really, truly bummed me out when I got married last year was the fact that none – literally none – of my friends back home attended. I understand why, of course, and can even explain to you the reason behind their absences. Mainly it had to do with the fact that initially G and I were planning to get married in November 2010 and instead, moved the date up to April 2010. I communicated this change about five months in advance but of course, I understand that Chile is far, it’s expensive to travel and that they (my friends) had every right to prioritize their spending. After all, I was the one who randomly switched the date on them, regardless of the advance notice.

Truth be told, it hurt a lot. I couldn’t believe that I was finally – FINALLY – getting married and not one single friend was there. The sting was lessened because I was completely and 100% happy to have had the friends I had made in Chile present, almost symbolizing the here and now. I was also really happy that my most favorite person in the whole wide world came: my Tio Pato.

Only the most amazing uncle of all time.

I grew up in San Francisco, far away from where the majority of my blood relatives lived – Chile. On both sides of the family I happen to have many aunts and uncles and a ridiculous, only-in-Latin-families amount of cousins. The thing is that they all lived down here while I was happily growing up in Northern California. The only family I had while growing up were my mom (obviously), two-great aunts, my Tio Pato (my mom’s brother) and my Tio Pato’s son (and my cousin), Tony.

Tony and I shared a similar story actually. He was born in the U.S. but his mom had moved there from Chile in the late 70s/early 80s and like me, Tony had family down here but rarely saw them. He once traveled with my aunt and uncle to Chile but apparently he was too young to remember and it wasn’t until he was well in his teens that he finally began to fully embrace his Chilean roots. Again, a little like me.

Tony and I also grew up a lot like brother and sister. He’s an only child and though I have a sister, she didn’t live in the U.S. with us and as such, I also grew up pretty much as an only child. Since my mother counted her brother as one of the very few family members with whom she could share things with, we spent a lot of time with my aunt, uncle and cousin: camping trips, 4th of July bbqs, Chilean asados, birthday parties, Christmases, New Years, etc. There was even a time when my mom and I went to live with them, result of a nasty separation she was going through. The point being that Tony and I share a lot of fond memories of growing up in the late 80s and early 90s.

My First Communion. I was 7, Tony must have been all of 3.

When he was a toddler, he was an annoying little sh*t who cried for no reason and when my mom used to babysit him, she’d quiet him down by literally sitting his naked little butt in a sink of ice, cold water. (This was the 80s and the ‘time-out’ business parents use now wasn’t the norm.) When he got his first Nintendo, we played Super Marios Bros until we couldn’t see straight, well past our bedtime, defiant until the end (we needed to raid the castle to rescue the princess!) Rumor even has it that Tony got stoned for the very first time with one of my high school boyfriends! I told him everything he needed to know about high school: dances, lockers, class schedules, popularity, cheerleaders, newspapers, what-have-you and assured him that since I was going through high school first, I would make sure to be super popular so that when he got there, it would be a breeze for him (he ultimately ended up going to a different high school. Good thing because I don’t recall ever being the said Miss Popularity I promised him I’d be!)

We even fought like brother and sister. One time, I was (per usual) making fun of his name – not Tony, but his full name, Domingo Antonio. I ran around his apartment laughing and taunting him “Ha ha, your name is Sunday, your name is Sunday!” I must have been 14, he was probably around 9 and in response to this taunting (which I smugly found to be brilliantly humorous), he did what any 9 year old would do – he punched me in the face. I remember cupping my cheek and looking at him, totally in shock and with my mouth gaping open. “Oh.my.God.” I said to him. “You… are.. going…. to… be… in… so… much… trouble… I’m totally going to tell on you!!” And I ran off and locked myself in the bathroom for a good half hour. It didn’t really hurt, you see. I just wanted to make him suffer and for that entire half hour, I was pleased at myself as I heard him banging on the door freaking out “Don’t tell my mom, don’t tell my dad, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.” (In the end, I don’t even remember if I ended up telling on him, but I’ll never forget how much he freaked out after punching me.)

I’m guessing I’m 19 or 20 and he’s 15 or 16. This was years after punching me in the face but actually it occurred in that apt!
Tony and I as tourists in Valparaiso in December 2006.
Tony and I at my uncle’s 60th bday in Jan 2006 – buzzed hair not a good look for you, primo.
Does anyone else feel like I’m equally chronicling Tony’s hair through the years?

Tony didn’t make it to my wedding either, but this was mostly due to bad timing on our part. You see, Tony moved to Australia to work for a magazine right around the time that G and I got married. I was

sad that he wasn’t there because even though there were many cousins in attendance, he was the one cousin that really, truly mattered. The last time I saw him was in 2009, during a trip to CA, before he moved to Australia. All that changed, one random day, about a month ago.

Now, let me preface this with telling you how Tony’s evolved as he’s stepped into, yes, manhood. For one thing, post-high school he chose to use his birth name both professionally and socially. He is not known as “Tony” to anyone that has met him post 20-years of age; he’s known as Domingo (yes, Sunday!) It’s funny because the difference is clearly marked. His high school friends and his entire family call him Tony … everyone after, calls him Domingo. Also, he’s turned into an amazingly cool guy. Meaning, that same kid that was kicking and screaming outside the door, freaking out that I’d tell on him for punching me, would now be like “whatever, dude” and somehow manage to turn the situation into nothing, simply by being charming or saying something bogus and out there (perhaps he’s mastered the Jedi-mind trick, who knows?) He’s a little bohemian, a little hippy-ish, a lot artsy and definitely an outside-the-box thinker. He isn’t a planner and more so follows the moment, the high (life high, that is), the movement, the flow, what have you.

This is the guy who randomly called me on an insignificant Friday in May – OUT OF NOWHERE – and said “Hey cuz, it’s me, Tony. I’m in Chile.”

WHAT THE MOTHER-F*CKING WHAT??!!

Yes, he was in Chile and yes, he’d been here for about a week, doing his thing and, as usual, going with the flow. Venturing out and randomly landing in Chile. Such is life with him. He didn’t have time to see other family members and so it meant that much more to me that he called to make sure we saw each other before he returned to Australia.

The bearded cousin, circa now.
Our signature go-to awkward smile-for-the-camera. Years of perfecting this, people!

I’m not sure any other visit would have made me quite so happy, truth be told. We only hung out a few hours, three tops. We all went out to dinner to a typical Chilean restaurant and basically hung out, shot the sh*t and had a nostalgia-filled time. We reminisced, just like old people. We called my uncle (who, by the way, nearly cried at the thought of both my cousin and I hanging out after so much time living outside CA.) We laughed, we drank wine, we called each other “dude” one time too many. All we needed to make the night complete was a round of Super Mario Bros. And as silly as it may sound, I was happy because I was able to share my life now, time with my husband, my apartment, my dog – everything – with someone who has always meant very much to me, through the good and through the bad. The only thing that would have made the night complete, would have been to have my uncle right there with us.

That’s ok, though. Mantuvimos al Tio muy presente. Even force-feeding Gonzalo in the same manner Tio Pato is known to do (with family and complete strangers, mind you.)

Open wiiiiide! Who doesn’t like sea urchin, anyway?

Dear cuz: Thanks for the random call, thanks for the extra time. See you in your neck of the woods in October.

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My Love Affair With Licensing

In my former life, I worked in licensing. I realize there are many people out there who have no idea what licensing is about and I know this because before I entered that world, I was one of those people.

In the simplest of terms, licensing is the act of granting permission to someone to do something. In my former life, I worked with authorizing, granting and allowing the use and release of animation – specifically Japanese animation.

I call to mind a phenomenon I take for granted everyone remembers: Pokemon.

Even as I incorporate use of this image, I know I don't have the right to do so.

Now, I wasn’t involved in any way with the evolution of Pokemon in our everyday lives and in fact, the first murmurs of the explosion-to-come were heard in the late 90’s (1996, I believe, though I could be wrong.) During that time, I was tucked away at college, figuring out my life and where I wanted to go with it. I had no idea what Pokemon was or even, what licensing was or how it would someday wrap me into its snug little world.

The point is, we all remember when Pokemon exploded onto the scene. We didn’t even have to have kids to know that every kid across America (and then some, I would later learn) was engrossed with collecting these devilish little Pocket Monsters. Based on a video game and then turned into animation, it suddenly seemed that the entire world was being taken over by 1) weird looking Japanese animation and 2) that yellow dinosaur/dog thing called Pikachu or what have you. Yeah, kids went nuts over this little animation property and you know what made said frenzy possible? Licensing!! Licensing the shit out of these images allowed said characters to appear on everything from notebooks, backpacks, toys, bedding, tshirts, etc. And I’m willing to bet that we can probably even find said Pikachu on vibrators and such (though of course, not legally licensed for such use.) And once there are things with an image on it, there is always somebody out there, a kid, teen or adult, who just CAN’T POSSIBLY LIVE WITHOUT THAT PIKACHU YELLOW PASHMINA!!!

Before Pokemon, we can remember licensing in all its glory with none other than our beloved Star Wars. Now there’s a licensing jackpot. Let’s think about this for a minute: though Lucas has, without argument, many wonderful creations (Indiana Jones, Willow, American Graffiti, to name a few) there is nothing that compares to the cinematic and licensing success of his mega empire called Star Wars. One of the biggest factors that lends to the success of a licensing brand, if it’s based on a movie or tv show, is its longevity. If it’s a tv show, everyone wants to know – how many episodes can we count on? Why? The longer the series or franchise, the longer someone has to make sure that notebook they develop has time to become a roaring success in retail as well. This is what makes Star Wars so f-ing amazing in the licensing world!! Back in the day there were only THREE movies – movies, not even episodes that air on a daily or weekly basis but a movie that lasts a mere weeks in theaters – and Lucas built an empire the size of China based on THREE MOVIES that came out THREE years apart. Think about it – would you buy merchandise based on Titanic? That was an explosive movie at its time yet it came and went, like movies do. Yet Star Wars remains. Brilliant.

In any case, the point of this post, along with offering you a little background into the world of licensing and how it pulsates around us, is to tell you that, once a year there is a convention dedicated solely and exclusively to the licensing world and it’s called – what else – Licensing Show. Actually its official title is “Licensing International Expo” but no one in licensing calls it anything else but simply and purely, Licensing Show.

The first time I attended Licensing Show, as an Exhibitor, was in 2004. Back in the day, this convention was held in the greatest city on Earth – New York – during the hot, summer month of June. It was nothing short of pure chaos, with people coming and going and my superiors presenting new brands that were on the horizon, compliments of my former company and its intended licensing efforts behind said brands. The following year (and for several years after), we exhibited yet again but this time with a booth twice the size of earlier years, with a reception area and five individual meeting rooms that accommodated six meeting members each. The chaos multiplied. Half hour back-to-back meetings from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm where one basically repeated brand information from one would-be client to the next. This was the typical DAY of the exhibitor and what followed once the convention doors closed (at 6:00 pm sharp!) was any number of cocktails hosted by well-known companies (Disney, Viacom, Cartoon Network, Hasbro, Mattel, etc), followed by dinner – perhaps with a VP of a television network or Creative Director of some sought after agency. One would trek through the trendiest of neighborhoods in Manhattan, from the convention, to the cocktail, to a the posh dinner, only to plop into bed at about midnight, buzzed off business and wine and hurrying into slumber to be in tip-top shape for the first 9:00 am meeting the following day. Past 6:00 pm the cocktails were hard to avoid. Meetings could continue past 6:00 pm but that meant that they were scheduled at a bar and usually, one reserved that prime-time for a favored company – one that allowed you to mix fun and work. It was an exhausting week, that one, but without a doubt, the one week I looked forward to each and every year.

I met my husband at this convention, actually. I don’t recall our first meeting but he tells me that I wore glasses and a white skirt (that’s all he seems to recall so I wonder if I bothered putting on a top that day.) We actually met years before we decided to like each other, but the year we DID fall in love (in November) we attended Licensing Show like always (the June before) and partied at a rooftop bar in NYC. Another splendid tradition: the last night of the convention, all the Latins (Mexicans, Chileans, Argentinians, what have you) got together for a celebratory, let’s-toast-to-another-Licensing-Show-gone-by-and-hey-it’s-awesome-to-see-you-again drink.

Me and future hubby partying circa 2008 at the rooftop bar. I look super sober.

And so, what’s my point with this? Tonight G is flying home from Licensing Show 2011 as I type. This is the first year he attends in which I am no longer involved in the world of licensing. I envy him. I remember what it was like to prepare for that trip, to wake up knowing you face a full agenda of the day’s meetings. I remember being a licensing rockstar if only in my own reality. I remember looking at all my fellow licensing colleagues from Latin America – sh*t, even from Chile – and thinking “Wow, how cool is your gig? In licensing and in Lat Am, what more do you need?” I remember the meetings, the cocktails, the dinners, the parties, the negotiations, the encounters and I miss.it.all. Though I’m happy G is still a part of that world (I can live vicariously through him!) I can’t help but feel that I’ve fallen from grace.

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Note to Self

There’s a truly awesome blog I’ve been silently following for a couple of months now and through it, I stumbled across a writing project called Trust 30. Of course, my stumbling is never graceful and I came across it far too late to actually participate (because that would have been ideal, considering I really NEED something like this right about now in my life) so I basically had to settle for sitting on the outside, looking in. Again.

What it is (for those of you too lazy to click on the handy link I provided)  is a 30-day writing challenge that looks to help participants channel their inner beasts (and beauties, I’m sure), through writing.  Sounds pretty heavy, no? Well, it is. The idea is that each day, the participants are prompted via email with thought-provoking questions or scenarios and the idea behind this is to allow and encourage the person to write from within, with integrity and whole-heartedly, addressing or answering the phrase or question in the email prompt (as in, prompted to write). Now, in my opinion, the prompts, at first glance, initially serve the purpose of making me feel like monosyllabic moron… prompts that surely prove I’m nothing more than a master brain farter. However, in my case, this is due to the fact that I’ve lost my ability to look within and ponder questions that are hairy and scary.  Don’t get me started on the lost ability to write about said things (oy.) See? I told you I am the A-numero-1 target for this amazing project… and I missed it.

B-o-o-h-o-o.

I’ve decided to cheat and go about this my own way however, because there is one prompt that is just too good to pass up. I’m going to write in parallel to those who are officially participating and answer a prompt that has really provoked me. That is: What would you say to the person you were five years ago?

Holy son of a motherless goat!

Is this question NOT too much for color tv? And I’m totally cheating, by the way, because the question actually has two parts and the second one is one I’m not yet able to tackle. And so, baby’s going to start out slow. I figure, at least I know the me five years ago and so it won’t be like I’m addressing a total stranger.

Huh. The irony just occurred to me. Obviously the me now is the complete stranger in this scenario because I’m starting from a point where I have the advantage. I know the me then. Do I know me now? I’m going through that crisis as we speak, truth be told. I don’t really recognize myself anywhere in this new world, as every role, including that of wife, is new to me. One thing I do know for sure is that I’m not handling any of the roles well.  But that’s six of one and half a dozen of another.

So anyway, without further ado, here’s a letter to me (five years ago) from the me (today), which, by the way, would be sent to me via email at my now defunct Yahoo address whose only purpose at present is to collect millions to trillions of junk mail.

In my case it would be 2006, but 1955 works too.

Hey…. so… I know this is going to sound all sci-fi and weird and a little too close to resembling a first draft of the “Back to the Future” script BUT, hear me out yo.

On August 18, 2006 you exchanged the usual emails with three of your best SF girlfriends (don’t deny you spent most of your time emailing with them, rather than working) and you wrote:

I am sooooo tired of hearing “can’t get enough of you.” It’s like, everyone says that to me and I’m like “what? I know… stop already.”  (to be said in a bored, Paris Hilton style voice.)

I have a few life goals and they are these (in no particular order): learn to sail, own a boat, write a book (even if it never gets published), own a townhouse in Manhattan, marry, have one, if not two, kids, and get an MBA. Sometimes I think I’ll have to surrender to the fact that I may not accomplish all these things but it seems to me that  of all these things listed here, the MBA is most within my CONTROL and most within my reach. I wonder if that’s true and perhaps it’s up for debate but I believe this.

I want to tell you something my sweet, little chocolate covered 29-year-old: right now, this very second you’re at the pinnacle of life as a single person. You really need to sit back and actually take it in and that complaining you do about not having enough money or enough to do at work or enough passion for something, you really need to put a sock in it. And here’s what needs to happen:

First of all, that boyfriend you have, though he’s the nicest guy ever (probably one of the only two nice guys you’ll ever meet in your life), he’s not the one. You know this already but you’re too scared to just own up to it. I’m not at all keen on revealing the future to you, but let me say this – that fear you have that he’ll meet someone totally fabulous and a million times better than you – it’s true and founded. He will meet someone better than you. But the thing is, she’ll be a million times more fabulous FOR HIM. Which, as you well know, is what he deserves. You’re wasting your time, jelly bean. His and yours. That second fear you have that you’ll never meet someone as nice, as generous as devoted as him and that you’ll never meet someone who will love you like he does, well, that’s a lie. You’re both wrong. He doesn’t love you as much as he’s capable of loving because that will come with his next girlfriend (and that’s a good thing) and you… my dear… you, will find someone who indeed is ONE MILLION times better than your current bf and that’s simply because he’ll be better for YOU. So shit or get off the pot (I KNOW you aren’t going to shit so get off already) and by that I mean, break up with the guy and get on your single, merry way. Trust me, it WILL be merry.

Three of the most amazing women you'll ever meet. Circa 2006 at the Lion's Pub.

Once you do that, after the sting subsides a bit, you’ll be set to truly and adequately enjoy your life as you want to live it in your present. Your priorities right now are your friends and your job – so stop dicking around and focus on those two! You adore your friends, not a second goes by that you aren’t planning something with them, texting them, calling them and most certainly, emailing with them. Planning trips to Tahoe, happy hours at Voda (hello! you know you’re all about their $3 happy hour specials between 5-7 pm) or happy hours at Americano. Next year your best friend, Jen, will be moving to New York – NEW YORK! Stop wasting time with things that don’t matter and spend all your time with them – later on, you won’t have that luxury, peanut. Sadly, you really won’t. These next few years should be about you and them and in parallel to that, you focus on your career. Trust me on this. Never again will you have a more fabulous job, in the most fabulous of U.S. cities, surrounded by the most fabulous women you will.ever.meet. Go to their birthday parties, go to their launches of anything, just be with them. Don’t flake, don’t let your wind die down at the end of the work day and make the effort to be there. Your friends are your life right now, and it’s as it should be at this moment.

The one thing I can tell you that you did a-ok with is your job. All I can say is – wow. At 29 you will have seen some of the best cities in the world, tasted some of the best cuisine in the world and will have worked with cultures from Turkish to Israeli to French to Brazilian. There is no better time than now for you, career-wise and all I can say is, you go guuurrrrrl. I hope you know that. Remembering correctly, I think you did kind of know that… but only kind of. Right now I’m telling you, that said “kind of” knowing needs to shift into “embedded-in-your-brain-and-injected-into-your-bloodstream” kind of knowing.

Finally, I just want to tell you – those goals you listed above – much too “by the book.” I realize that you felt pressure to succeed “by the book” and come to think of it, you’ve always been wired that way. You’ll even be inclined to think that way five years from your current now. But “by the book” becomes boring and trust me, one day, you’ll be looking at your Facebook wall and you’ll realize that those people who did it “by the book” look like clones of one another. The ones who deviated? Those are the ones that later on, you’ll wish you emulated. You’ll eventually quench that thirst for a higher degree, but it won’t be an MBA. And you know what? You’ll be fine with that. You’ll still want to sail and without giving away too much, all I can tell you is DO IT NOW. Someday in the future you may not live next to a body of water big enough to motor that dream … Oh, and about that townhouse in Manhattan … you’ll forever have that dream, pookie pie, along with about half of the world’s population. Dream big, sister.

Help the turtle, Andrea.

I could go on, of course. I could go into details like “don’t fall for the Mexican guy who will tear out your heart and stomp on it until it breaks into a million pieces,” – or – “don’t move in with your friend Dara because it will be the main reason you guys will stop being friends and that broken friendship will be felt enormously,” – or – “keep doing that bootcamp and never stop working out, make it a part of your life always” – “spend more time with Kylie, Devon and Piper because someday you’ll look up and realize they’re teenagers! – or – “just go with Jen on her turtle rescuing mission in the seedy underbelly of New York! It means a lot to her!” But really, the way you’re living life isn’t half bad and in general you’re doing a good job. The main flaw in you is that you’re too scared to be alone but trust me when I tell you, the period you do finally spend alone, will be the best time of your non-married life. You’re a good person, albeit a little insecure. There will always be people better than you but no one but YOU can be the best you.

Whatever you do, keep dancing.

I’ll tell you, with all my heart, I miss you and the life you’re living. Pop another bottle for me and keep your life moving just as it is (only with the changes I’m mentioned or else I’ll slap you silly)…

Oh, and invest in Google stock the MINUTE IT IPOs!!

Love you, snoochie boochie.

P.S. – though I know right now it seems like talking in that bored-out-of-my-mind Paris Hilton voice will never cease to be funny, it will. So stop right now because you sound like a jerk.

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The weirdo

I can’t remember where it was I read that one of the key elements to writing a ‘tween or young adult book was to make sure you had an awkward, relatively weird, outsider kind of protagonist. This made sense to me since teenagers, especially pre-teens, are all kinds of awkward. In fact, today we needn’t think any further than Twilight and its leading lady, Bella Swan, who embodies clumsy, awkward and weird all in one package. When I was younger, I used to be drawn to these kinds of characters as well. Deenie, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Blubber, Ramona Quimby, Age 8, and of course, Anne of Green Gables, were all books that I adored when I was younger. I’d go to the library, check them out, read them, re-read them, take them back and repeat the process the following week all over again. I loved them because each protagonist was, in a word, weird. Since I considered myself to be weird too, reading about kids who were awkward and totally different from the norm allowed me to believe that I had a posse of like martians ready to hang out with me at any given notice. Books were my escape and my entertainment, more so than television or anything else available to me (which, let’s face it, was very limited). I was constantly fighting against being different and desperately tried to be “normal” like everybody else.

When we first arrived in San Francisco, I can safely say that I didn’t notice that I was different. My classmates were all different too. Some were Chinese, some were Korean, some where Russian, others Italian. I had a Mexican friend and a Filipino friend and I sat behind a red-headed boy named Billy in class who was probably of Irish-decent or something. We all attended Catholic school and as such, wore uniforms to school everyday. Because of this, no one noticed if someone had “cooler” clothes and the concept of “designer” anything just wasn’t our reality due to our age and our different backgrounds. Then of course there was the ONE thing many of us had in common besides this: being the first generation “Americans” growing up in a major city. When we went home, yes, some of the kids spoke English with their parents and siblings, but many of us went home and spoke a completely different language! You’d see the influences of our parents’ heritage in our packed lunches which ranged from PB&J to sushi to some kind of Chinese soup that was heavy on the cabbage. Sometimes you’d go over to a friend’s house and notice the traditions there: removal of shoes before walking in, eccentric, colorful art hanging on the walls, spicy cooking and the rich smells associated with it and multi-generational households that included the grandmother and sometimes even the great-grandmother! We lived in a city so many of us took the bus to school and as is the norm living in a city, many of us lived in apartments or flats, not always houses. And you know what? Because of this, I don’t recall any of my school mates and/or friends having pets.

To me, all of the above foster great memories of my childhood. I wasn’t weird because we were all “weird.” I wasn’t any different than my Korean classmate who removed her shoes before going inside her apartment and who brought sushi for lunch. Whereas I went home and spoke Spanish with my mom and ate “lentejas” for dinner, my Chinese, Mexican and Italian friends had their own traditions and day-to-day at home that greatly differed from my own. Such was the melting pot of my early years that soon took a nasty turn to dullsville Suburbia when I turned 14. It was at this age that we left San Francisco and moved to the Peninsula, 30 minutes south of the city. With this move came a change of school and a new chapter of my life that took an eternity to shake myself out of: weirdo martian from another country chapter.

From the time I was 14 to oh, about age 28 or 29, it was a constant battle to be considered part of the crowd and “normal.” I moved to Edward Scissorhands town and realized that the melting pot that had been my home for as long as I could remember, was no more. I found myself in a place, in a school, in a town, where every single person was “normal” and even those of a different ethnicity were, to the naked eye, diluted. I became self conscious of the fact that my mom didn’t speak English fluently. I was anguished like only a teenager can be over the fact that we didn’t live in a house like everyone else did. I didn’t grow up playing soccer so I immediately signed up for AYSO soccer and made a fool of myself trying to perform with non-existent skills. At 14 I had never shaved my legs because my mom never told me about it (in Chile people wax and she grew up always waxing, something she obviously thought I would do too once I was old enough.) All of a sudden I was the brown, hairy girl who moved from SF! No I didn’t have Guess jeans but realized soon enough that if I was going to be anybody at the new school, I NEEDED GUESS JEANS (is 14 too young to be sporting $80 jeans, anyone, anyone?) I didn’t even know about the GAP until I moved to this said Edward Scissorhand town and apparently, by the time I hit high school, it was the only option for my wardrobe. That and Eddie Bauer’s flannel shirts, what with the grunge thing in full effect.

I looked around and realized something that rang true in high school, college and some time after college as well. To be popular, interesting, solicited and listened to meant that you had to somewhat blend in and only stand out in the most traditional of ways. In high school this meant that I had to be in student government (all the cool kids were in student government.) It also meant that I had to be in drama but this only lasted through my freshman year and I gladly gave it up in lieu of the school newspaper (which incidentally, wasn’t “cool” by any means.) So I ran for Student Body Secretary my senior year in high school and lost to one of my classmates who was (and continues to be) Ms. Overachiever (actually now she’s Dr. Overachiever). That was a blow but thankfully, since I ran for a “big” office, I was given a pity prize and co-chaired something that had to do with school clubs (my co-chair was another popular girl, known more for her work in dance and performance arts.) I didn’t wear the right clothes, didn’t run with the right crowd (though GOD KNOWS it wasn’t for lack of trying!), didn’t play the right sports, I didn’t dance or do drama (which in my high school was the epitome of cool.) I did manage to break into Honors/Advanced English (again bc all the popular kids were in that class) and ONCE even pulled off the 2nd highest grade on a term paper (the highest grade went to Dr. Overachiever, I believe.) Still, I felt I had proved something to the “right” crowd.

By the time I got to college, I’d somewhat mastered the wardrobe mess I had when I first arrived at a public school and found my own style (or lack thereof). This wasn’t a major issue in college for me. The major issue was once again being the one “foreign” girl in a sea of … politely speaking, non-foreign boys and girls. Many grew up in suburbia, had a mom and a dad (dad was always a lawyer or some corporate executive and mom was most likely a school teacher) and I just had my mom. My mom who was a nanny, a great one at that, for a very successful, very wonderful family. No, there was no dad. No we didn’t take vacations to Tahoe every winter and summer. No, we’ve never owned an SUV. What was that? Was I going to Europe after graduating college? Um, no. I guess I could have done myself a favor and NOT gone out and join a sorority which only served to remind me how different, poor, weird, and non-mainstream I really was. Instead I DID join one, proceeded to binge drink to fit in, gain 15 pounds my first year at Davis, spend money I didn’t have on monthly sorority dues and pretty much drag myself through the mud trying to “be cool” and fit in with those I considered to be cool. That’s not to say or imply that people weren’t NICE. They were nice, actually. It’s just too bad that I was so awkward about being different that they couldn’t get to know me for me. It wasn’t their fault, it was mine. I assumed they thought I was weird and so I took that as fact and acted accordingly to try and fix it. The irony is that people who are NOW my good friends post-college are women who 1) weren’t in a sorority or 2) are the “cool” girls I wanted to impress who are more impressed with my weirdo foreignness than whoever it is I was pretending to be in college.

Life works in the kookiest of ways, really. Post-college it was through work, my career, travel and my accomplishments in the workplace that actually helped me shed all embarrassment for being different. I was given opportunities at a relatively young age that NO ONE my age had and that made me feel like a bad ass. I ended up working for a Japanese company and getting to know a culture that was a million times removed from both my own and actually LIKING and APPRECIATING it. It dawned on me that different was funky and I liked it. It also finally dawned on me that “normal” was so boring, I could die. Yawn. It helped that I was back in San Francisco (albeit for work only) and that I could once again be reminded that the melting pot existed and that I was a fabulous part of that.

The irony is this: I’m now living in Chile and again, I’m reminded with constant lucidity of how different I am. I’m a gringa in a Chilean world. I’m weird, I’m a foreigner and I’m not “normal” (what’s this about wearing open-toed shoes before October??!!! Owning a Bulldog? Not partaking in “once” and checking my blind spot when I drive?) That’s ok though. This time around in life I’m fine with it. I’m actually in the process of maintaining said weirdness, working off it and finding my place in this Chilean world. I’m sorry to tell you Chile, I don’t plan on playing the role I once did of fitting in. This is me, foreign and awkward, take it or leave it.

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Overdosing on nostalgia

There’s something that is quite evident between Chileans who live outside of Chile, something that I too used to share with enthusiastic vigor. There is a tendency to idealize this country and recall with a deep sense of nostalgia all the memories ever created during the time spent in this narrow land. It wouldn’t be fair to begin this blog immediately removing myself from this since in reality I spent the majority of my life in the exact same state of mind as those I now observe as quite nostalgic.

Growing up as “foreigners” wasn’t an easy feat in the San Francisco Bay Area, especially during the early 80s when being Latin wasn’t necessarily celebrated. Sure, it could have been worse (we could have been living in the middle of Kansas or Minnesota) but it took a bit before being Latin was actually celebrated. Even as I recall high school and certain “movements” by the Latino groups, this was mainly centered around Mexican-Americans, who, let’s face it, far outnumbered the Chileans. As such was the case, the small close-knit group of Chileans who lived in the Bay Area had a reduced network of neighbors and peers who “got” what it meant to be Chilean and who understood firsthand all the idiosyncrasies involved with being Chilean. My thought is that the likelihood of building and sustaining nostalgia bubbles involving all things Chilean was much, much greater because the real thing was much, much farther (it’s not like we could walk down the street and hit up a Chilean restaurant just like that.) Everyone who surrounded you felt the same distance, the same void, the same yearning to be closer, the same awe, the same patriotism and much, much more. The result was always the same when groups of Chileans got together: it was as if celebrating the 18th of September each and every time. Cuecas (Chile’s national dance), wine, “ensalada a la chilena,” a good asado produced our own little Chile no matter the occasion. – birthdays, anniversaries, marriages and even 4th of July resulted in the creation of a little Chile.

The fact that we were greatly outnumbered by Mexicans and Central Americans only perpetuated the nostalgia bubble. It was as if being the cheese that stands alone meant that it was our duty, our calling, our right, to show the world “We’re Chilean, dammit! Not Mexican! We don’t eat burritos!” (Actually, neither do Mexicans.) And in feeling this national pride, we tended to migrate towards others who shared like sentiments and who would join us in talking about how great Chile was or who would take the time to comment with us on the breathtaking, majestic beauty of the Andes Mountains. If we came across Chilean tourists it was if we’d been reunited with a long-lost sibling and we bombarded them with questions about “la patria” – now I realize that in acting this way, I’m sure that the visiting Chileans pretty much surrendered to the fact that Chileans who lived abroad were weirdos. We stopped at nothing, even inviting them to our homes for an “asado” because LORD KNOWS they must miss it, right? I mean, we did!

The distance between San Francisco and Santiago meant that when you took time off to vacation in Chile, you went for at least two weeks. Some people, like my mom, rarely went for less than one month. ONE MONTH of vacation, can you imagine? But people did this and no one thought anything of it. During that time, you jam packed your days traveling from north to south, to the coast and back again and made sure to visit each and every family member and friend who ever meant anything to you, even if that meant having back-to-back asados. It was great to visit, especially during summer in Chile, because the family would usually try to coordinate their vacations with yours. You can imagine the nonstop fun that resulted with a handful of people on vacation, ready to let loose, go to the beach and have themselves a whole heap of fun. You’d spend Christmas and New Year surrounded by family, enjoying the hot weather, eating, drinking, dancing and being merry. All of this was quickly compared to the cold, gray, desolate life you returned to when you went back home to the San Francisco Bay Area and of course, you quickly saw Chile as the only place in the world where you could possibly be happy.

Immediately returning from sunny, warm, family-oriented vacations, it was easy to recall the memories of a short time ago, when you were setting the table for “once” (tea time), going to the grocery store to pick out the meat for the asado in the evening, opening a bottle of red wine so that it could breathe or sitting down with a “pucho” (slang term for cigarette and no, I don’t smoke) ready to discuss the latest happenings with friends or friends of friends.

I was part of all this, an active part of all this. Nothing was better than Chile. Chilean wine was better, Chilean seafood was better, the Chilean way of life, the fact that people knew how to balance work and life, the proximity you had to others, the way people knew their neighbors … I would be in awe just standing in line at the supermarket, listening to the Chilean accents all around me. Each and every single vacation abroad was to Chile and when I returned, I’d immediately calculate when I could return again. Back home, I had an entire wall in my apartment dedicated to Chilean artisan crafts. I had a sticker on the back window of my Jetta with the Chilean flag on it. I had a notebook that I carried with me to all meetings, in SF or elsewhere, with a panoramic view of Santiago. In short, I was obsessed with my “patria” and made sure to say it loud, say it proud, every chance I had – “I’m Chilean!!!!!”

Then, I moved to Chile and began building my life here.

There are so many great things about this country, it would be unfair to say that I was completely wrong to idealize it when I lived back home. But it would also be unfair to not acknowledge that living here is considerably different than visiting. One of the first things I realized is that there really isn’t a work/life balance. People work a lot and they work constantly. Vacations are usually reserved for 1-2 weeks in February and a week in August – that’s it. It just so happened that when I would visit in December/January, family members would coordinate their vacations with mine. The food is good, but honestly, there is much more variety and richer tastes elsewhere – notably for me, in the U.S. Wine is amazing but then again, I miss not having the option of a California wine, New Zealand wine or Australian wine. It’s just Chilean, all.the.time. Also summer here is suffocatingly hot and most of the time, you have to endure it in Santiago because an escape to the beach is 1) expensive and 2) requires reservations far in advance during the peak summer months. Also, I don’t really see any difference in the way people live their lives here in that, most of the time, people go on their merry way, following the routine of their lives and rarely weaving in and out of other people’s lives. In short, it’s not all that neighborly as I once thought it to be. One more thing: we don’t do “once.” In fact, I don’t even LIKE “once.” There was once a time when I truly longed for it. Now I just find it utterly mundane to repeat breakfast a second time around. Finally, unfortunately enough, I take for granted the fact that my entire family is here and that, as such, I could pretty much see them more often than I ever could. If not more often, at least, much more easily than before. I’m as much of an “ingrata” (ungrateful or, in this case, absent) as everyone else in my family and because of this, we never see each other! And it’s a damn shame.

When it comes to Chile and the nostalgia it promotes in Chileans who live abroad, I’m on the other side of the looking glass now. I see them and I hear them talk about Chile with a sense of longing and a sense of pride that I no longer share. I see their pictures of the September 18th celebrations that were held back home, and they enjoy it with 100% more patriotism and passion than I’ve seen in the two dieciochos I’ve spent living here. Their Chi-chi-chi, le-le-le’s are louder and more heartfelt, especially compared to mine, which haven’t been uttered in well over a year. When I see these people on Facebook or in person, hear them over the line or in front of me, I no longer recognize those sentiments – ones that used to define me as a person! It’s like I’m looking at a picture of a great-great-great grandmother and trying desperately to find a nose-hair of resemblance.

I don’t recognize myself in them, or in their sentiments anymore, and I can no longer relate.

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Rock Star Kids!

I’m intrigued by kids, especially those with imagination and drive. This is because on the other hand, I’ve seen my fair share of the typical kid and his/her antics. I know it’s not their fault these kids have nothing new to offer; it’s mainly their parents fault and in light of that, I think the majority of parents today are really proactive about how their kids develop and how they are stimulated. It’s a sign of the times, I believe.

Which is why it’s no surprise that some very close family friends back home have accomplished something that I too hope to accomplish when I have children: they’re raising women leaders who wish to make this world a better place.

I reject the idea that if one is a girl, that girl needs pink and needs dolls and needs cutesy this or that. Girls aren’t bubbles, fragile and likely to burst if poked. Further, girls, just like boys can very well be encouraged to run, explore, climb, question, think, laugh, build, rearrange and a series of other active verbs that right now escape me but that are traditionally seen as boy behavior.

Our family friends have three girls: Kylie (11), Devon (10) and Piper (8) and these three girls think big. They started a club called Earth Savers Club for Kids about two years ago, initially with the belief “think globally, act locally,” with the purpose of picking up trash around their neighborhood in Northern California. But big thinkers and doers don’t just settle on the first idea that comes to mind, no matter how old or young they may be. No, they decided that to go BIG would mean reaching kids in other parts of the State, country and world and encouraging kids to pledge their commitment – however they can – to saving the Earth. Some kids pledge (via the website) to eat as much organic food as possible, others pledge to pick up garbage and recycle more, while others pledge to save the Earth by simply walking more. Um, did I mention these are KIDS making said pledges?? Rock star kids, all of them.

A local newspaper called “The Almanac” did a short report on these three girls and their hope for the future. But the real gem that lets one truly appreciate where these girls hope to go and what they hope to accomplish is the actual Earth Savers Club for Kids, a colorful, interactive website that invites kids from all over the world to join the global effort to save the Earth’s natural resources. As 10-year old Devon reminds us in the article she wrote for an e-magazine, “the Earth can’t be saved without kids.” Call me crazy, but if I were a parent, I’d definitely use this site to encourage my kids to participate in their own way.

An epilogue to ponder ….
On a personal note, I’ve known these girls since they were babies. In fact, I’ve known Kylie since she was 4 months old and I “met” Devon and Piper days after they were each born. My mother used to be their nanny when we lived in California and we were as much a part of eachother’s lives as any blood-related relatives. We’ve had the opportunity (and honor) to watch these girls grow up, celebrating with them, vacationing with them, sharing with them and to watch them individually become exactly who they chose to be … They are the reason I reject the notion that girls – and women – aren’t capable of excelling beyond our everyday imagination (and expectation). I’ve seen it first hand numerous times and in the simplest of forms, such as conversations with them or everyday play with them. In any case, I’m proud of them and of the girls they have become … I look forward to marveling at the women they will be and I hope that one day, if I have a girl, I too can accomplish the feat of encouraging her to look around and consider how she can help make things better.

Kylie and me in St. Thomas, USVI.

Devon and me playing on their backyard’s swing set.

Piper and me in Disneyland.

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My history in music

I can’t believe that I haven’t written a single blog post about music to file under my so-called “general malaise of irrelevant topics” that “I trust you’ll enjoy.” To quote myself. [For those out there just itching to read about my version of Chilean life, don’t worry. I have a blog brewing on my experience in Graduate studies in good ol’ Chilsters due up next.]

Now, I’m not about to proclaim that I’m anywhere near being a music guru and I am certainly no Rob Gordon (John Cusack’s character in “High Fidelity,” which, by the way, if you haven’t seen it, get off this blog and go watch it immediately. You’ll thank me later.) With that disclaimer in full effect, I can attest that music has always been central to my life and many times, I find that I can remember certain periods in my life just by the music that’s playing. Also, depending on the type of music, I can even remember the point in time, historically speaking, in which it was released (or at least, was popular to me.) A great example of that was Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” album which was released in 1984, when I was a wee tyke of 7. I remember the MTV Music Video Awards when she did that risque song on stage. Pure art.

The first song I’d like to highlight from my past is one from ABBA. Man, did my mom LOVE that group and I can’t begin to tell you HOW MANY TIMES, I heard this song:

My mom obsessed doesn’t begin to cover it.

As I grew up (in the 80s, mind you), cheesy 80s love songs were released by the multitude. Elton John, Air Supply, Chicago, Stevie Wonder, Atlantic Star, Billy Ocean, Lionel Richie and many, many more flood my early 80s memories and none more so than this one:

I actually owned this cassette and played this song on repeat, just as my mom had done with ABBA. Obviously, I learned it from her. Play, Repeat.

My most significant music memories during the late 80s were related to Poison, George Micheal’s “Faith” album, Madonna, Guns n’ Roses, Bon Jovi (“Wanted Dead or Alive” poignantly stands out in my mind), and of course New Kids on the Block. (Don’t ask me what one had to do with the other as it made perfect sense to me to like all of the above at the same time. ) The late 80s also weaved in some Paula Abdul…

…and this particular song was quite popular when I was in 7th(ish) grade because the popular radio station back then, X-100, had a DJ named “Super Snake” and as you can imagine he was in his 7th Heaven with this particular song and as such, he played it constantly. Naturally I danced to it like mad in my room and watched the video incessantly. And for all my younger peeps out there, yes, Paula had a career before American Idol even became a pilot being pitched to Fox.

Believe it or not, it was also around this time that an 8th grade friend of mine introduced me to N.W.A. and I was so moved by the sheer naughtiness of the lyrics that I immediately went out and bought myself their “Straight Outta Compton” album (on cassette, of course) and I’ve since then been a fan of that particular release.

Then the early 90s hit and it seems to me that his was the time when Rap and Hip & Hop were beginning to inch their way from the city streets to middle-class suburbia and beyond. Bel Biv DeVoe were immensely popular in the early 90s and as horny little 8th grade kids attending school dances, we were all about “freaking” to this song …

and need I remind you all of this song, which came out during my 8th grade year (1990-1991)…

Yo, VIP!

As you can see, and as I recall, during this time, the good came with the bad. Boys II Men came out during this time and they made singing a Capella pretty damn awesome and not to mention, popular. But the bad came with the likes of Right Said Fred and their “I’m Too Sexy” which seemed to take the country, and definitely my high school, by storm.

But how can we even mention the early 90s without highlighting the two most important music genres to come out of that decade: Grunge / Alternative Rock and Gangster Rap. Loves and loves!

Anyone who remotely knows me, knows that I have an affinity to all things Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Tupack Shakur. Frankly, with musical geniuses such as these, how can one not? As I mentioned, I had dabbled in some of Dr. Dre’s earlier work with N.W.A. but his collaboration with the likes of Snoop Dogg seriously blows my rap-inclined mind.

On the other side of this coin lies the influence of grunge music on my life at the time. I can’t say that I was fully anti-establishment and it’s not like I threw my school work out the window and blew the joint to go out and buy Doc Martens. I was never a big fan of Alice In Chains but particularly enjoyed Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Nirvana and did my part in wearing cut off shorts with thermals underneath, v-neck tshirts, flannel shirts and in sum, look like a total mess.

By the time I graduated high school, the gangster rap genre had evolved a bit to include the likes of Coolio…

[Incidentally, the library scenes of this movie were filmed at my high school.]

…and also included the fun-loving Naughty By Nature.

When I started college, alternative rock was in all its glory: Bush, Butthole Surfers, Weezer, STP, Sonic Youth, Beck, PJ Harvey and the like were our cups of tea.

But nothing (and no one) takes me back to the early days of college like this group:


A simple message really … life IS too short, so love the one you’ve got.

College progressed, great songs were released: “A Long December” by the Counting Crows, “Love Rollercoaster” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Criminal” by Fiona Apple and of course, Dave Matthews Band became wildly popular. All of the above marked me in some way but two of the songs that stand out the most from those days in the late 90s are ones that were actually released DECADES before …

and

And every time, these songs take me back to driving on the California roads, dancing (or grooving) in the car with my best friends, sun overhead and our hair blowing.

The remainder of college contained music from Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, Smashmouth, Ricky Martin, Destiny’s Child, TLC, Blink 182 to name just a very few that I was particular keen on. Grunge and even Alternative Rock had subsided and with the likes of Eminem, a funnier version of Gangster Rap emerged…

And from then on, I of course became a fan of the Dr. Dre protégé!

Sigh. This felt good. I like looking at snapshots in time via music that touched me in some way. There is SO MUCH MORE too! “Son of a Preacher Man” was a huge deal for us after the movie “Pulp Fiction” came out and in fact, that whole soundtrack was a must-have at our college parties. Then there’s the music associated with the ex boyfriends, whether my own or that of my best friend’s (we each made the other listen to music relevant to our romantic relationships.) And I feel like I hardly touched on the pop music scene that exploded with the inception of “Hit Me One More Time” by Britney Spears. But honestly, who has the time for all that? I could on and you could go on reading and we’d both get nowhere relevant to the now.

But now that I think about it … if I was able to spark a little something in you, a memory, an “I remember that song!” exclamation of some sort … or better yet, if I motivated you to go back and dig up some old tunes anywhere, even via You Tube, I feel immensely satisfied as I feel I’ve done this world some service. Again, by no means do I claim to be a musical genius and I’m quite aware that you are much more likely to have further, more elaborate insight on the music of our generation.

I hope you share it with me and others. Sharing music and living music, whatever strikes your fancy, is a-ok with me. To conclude, I’ll circle back to the beginning and leave you with one last song from ABBA that really quite sums it up. At least for me.

[p.s. These You Tube videos seriously crack me up. Especially the first ABBA video with the snowman!]

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Confessions of an ex-girlfriend

Earlier this week I had some time on my hands (as I was trying to avoid studying) and so I began Facebook check-in’s with my friends and acquaintances. I do this every so often just to see who’s had a kid, who’s getting married, who’s bought a house, who’s sick and who’s annoyed with work (and to what degree.) It’s good reading and I highly suggest it, though highly recommend you stick to people you know otherwise you cross the line into weirdo territory. I digress.

Anyhoosers, as I was doing this, I came across someone who is FB friends with an ex’s family member and I was immediately hauled back to memory lane recalling how God-awful that ex was and seriously took a second to THANK GOD I was no longer in that atrocious relationship.

From there (again, all in an effort to avoid studying for this upcoming exam on Saturday morning), I decided to take a moment in my happily married life and contemplate the road I walked (or crawled depending on the relationship) to get right where I am at this very second. It’s good to reflect on where you’ve been, if only to cherish even more where you are. Another thing I highly suggest and not just with ex’s but in all aspects of life.

I was always a long-term relationship kind of girl, beginning with my first boyfriend ever which I “dated” for about a year and half. I say “dated” because when you’re 15-17 years old, how much of this is really, truly dating … isn’t it more like, obsessing about one another, feeling sick with insecurity and locking lips? Or is that just me? He broke up with me to date a girl from another high school and as a result, I remember being traumatized and stripped of any desire to get out of bed. That lasted about two months, as I listed to Pearl Jam’s “Black” on repeat (CDs were widespread then so it was easy to just press one button and instantly hear the anthem of my broken heart.) It was that or Guns n’ Roses “Don’t Cry.” What can I say? My 17 year old heart was shattered – and worse! It had been replaced by a girl at another high school!! I remember doing some questionable investigating to find out how they had met in the first place and I came to find out they had met at the gym. The gym! I didn’t even own running shoes…

Boyfriend #2, looking back, I can now identify as a creep-o with an inferiority complex so severe, he actually chose to date me, someone 7 years his junior! I was still in high school, he was a college drop out. Need I say more? In short, looking back, the me-now can definitely identify the him-then as a Grade-A LOSER … but the me-then didn’t know that. I blame him, really. Shouldn’t he have pointed out that an 18 year-old should be hanging out with other 18 year-olds? He was a nice enough guy, helped me with term papers and the like, but his antisocial antics got old AND the fact that he lived at home and didn’t have a job became beyond embarrassing. We broke up after about 3 years when I finally met someone closer to my age with the same values as me (hi, work ethic anyone?) and who would actually hang out with my friends. I felt like I had struck gold!

Boyfriend #3 was fun, smart, came from a good family, and was a lovely boyfriend for the year we dated. In fact, I’m FB friends with him! He’s married now and has a very cute daughter and in short, looks very happy and I’m happy FOR him. Seriously, the only bad thing I can say about that is that I liked him a lot more than I think he liked me at the time… as a result, I of course drove him away. Don’t get me wrong, I think he really did like me. I just seemed to think it wasn’t enough … Which led to yet another broken heart and feelings of “What’s wrong with meeeeeeeeeeee?” It wasn’t him, it was me. I see that now. And because of that, I can look back and think “he was fun. I liked him. Good guy to date, glad we hit it off,” walking away with no ill feelings and instead, feelings of complete neutrality. I find this to be a good thing.

After Boyfriend #3 I entered a period when I bounced around a lot, not really finding myself in anything that stable or promising. I dabbled in dating the first boyfriend ever (high school guy) again but that ended sourly and I have nothing good to say about that second time around. I did learn that it’s no good to re-date someone. What’s that book called? Something about being called a break-up because it’s broken? Point being, don’t re-date someone. Does it ever end well? I guess it can, but in my case it (thankfully) didn’t. After that, I dabbled in a long distance relationship with a Chilean I met in San Francisco… he was in the Chilean navy, still is actually. He’s another guy I’m friends with on FB and he too is now in a long-term relationship. Again, feelings of happiness (for him) and neutrality can best describe what I feel when I remember him.

That’s the thing though. I never even remember these guys except when one thing leads me to another, as was the case the other day, and I remember something. But even that thought is so fleeting, it’s like all of this happened to another person. But that’s how it goes, right? The me I was back then was a less developed, less evolved version of me now.

If I have a daughter, I’ll take her through all of these lessons on dating. I’ll tell her that sometimes, guys look awesome on the surface (“on paper”) as was the case with the first guy I made mention of at the beginning of this post (remember? I said I came across an acquaintance’s FB page who is friends with a family member of his). What seemed to be, wasn’t really and I got caught up with all that glittered about him. Turned out he was a lazy, unmotivated, racist (yes, racist), uber conservative little punk with delusions of grandeur (and yes, I really DO need to learn to form an opinion.) Our break up seemed detrimental at the time but looking back, all I can think is “There is a God and he’s definitely looking out for me.” The funny thing is that he (and his entire family) probably thinks I’m a crazy, Latina Jezebel who ended up looking for a relationships on Cragislist “Women Seeking Men” section. I’m not gonna lie. I came this close and decided against it. :o)

But I’d also tell my daughter that sometimes, really nice guys come along and you date them for an eternity of four years. I’m not sure what number this said boyfriend would be but let’s just say he was Mr. All-American Nice Guy. No complaints, bad juju or ill-feelings come about in relation to him and actually, we had a great time together. He’s now dating someone who is far better suited for him and honestly, I’m happy for them both. It didn’t use to be like that. Sometimes one’s ego gets in the way of being happy for those who deserve it but time takes care of that discrepancy in personal judgment.

The final thing that happens before finding THE ONE is this: you meet someone and you instantly click. You think, “OMG what have I been doing my whole life when this person was floating around, existing without me and I was doing the same thing! Blasphemy!” You can’t conjure up anyone who is cooler, has a better story, a better career, a cuter face, better taste in music or personal style and you immediately become convinced that this is what life has been saving for you. This, right here, this guy, is your prize for all your failed relationships past.

HA!! Except that’s not how it works. See, right before you meet the one, you meet the one who could-have-been or almost-was (which is VASTLY different from the one-who-got-away). This guy is the one who gives you the final reminder that a guy who is in it for the long run, in it because he’s convinced you’re the best thing since sliced bread, will do insurmountable things to be with you. Will climb every mountain and swim every ocean just to be near you (so to speak). Simply put, the guy who’s in it to win it will follow through with some integrity. The guy who almost-was but didn’t quite measure up was the guy before G and it was a fresh SLAP IN THE FACE reminder of all the sh*t women need NOT go through with the opposite sex.

That’s how it goes you know. You have to be crawling on the ground, licking the floor miserable, having endured the most pathetic of showings by a guy, to realize that it’s far better to be alone than with the guy who could never measure up.

So maybe some people never had to be alone in order to find themselves before THE ONE came along. We all have our own roads and this just happened to be mine. Still, I don’t think I would have changed it all that much. Yeah break ups suck and there were some that were horrid for me … where my face would be a disfigured mess in the mornings because of endless crying the night before. But it helped me learn that each time I became someone’s ex-girlfriend, I was closer to becoming someone’s THE ONE (or wife). I always like to say that dating was like trying jeans on for size. You have to try a million on, and endure pure frustration (some too long, some too tight, why do those look better on her than me, I have no butt, etc) before you find a good pair.

What a long strange trip it’s been …. and where I am because of it, is worth its weight in gold.

G and me during our first dance as husband and wife.
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